Memo: Shopify’s ‘Cool Kid’ Paradox

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An open letter to all eCommerce merchants. In a recent chat with 2PM Executive Member Damian Soong, the DTC founder replied with a poignant thought:

Someone needed to say that DTC isn’t Shopify.

Paul do Forno, the Managing Director of Deloitte’s Commerce Practice, chimed in with the data to support Soong’s thought, adding:

If you plotted by total platform revenue: HCL Commerce, Oracle, SAP, SalesForce would be towards the top.

Shopify has made the industry more interesting, accessible, and newsworthy. But it is not the only participant in this burgeoning ecosystem: Magento (now Adobe), Demandware (now Salesforce), SAP, BigCommerce, Squarespace, BigCartel, WooCommerce, Webflow, Square, and Wix have played pivotal roles in the development of either enterprise or merchant-level markets. Shopify is neither the biggest platform with respect to merchant volume or gross merchandise value (GMV). It sits squarely at the center of the two extremes. Yet somehow, it became the de facto operator of the DTC era.

To understand the direction of eCommerce, you must understand its past and present. During what was likely the most pivotal year in my early eCommerce career, I studied Magento from the perspective of an eCommerce brand that employed 100 or so. That earlier version of Magento was a complicated platform to understand. Its management required the employment of a dozen engineers and an equal magnitude of talent in user experience and front-end design. When I soon had my own opportunity to build an eCommerce brand alongside Kevin Lavelle, we went not to Magento, but to Shopify. We didn’t have the money to hire technical talent, nor did we have the patience to manage it on top of the challenges that we faced in manufacturing and early customer acquisition. But it’s important to recognize that this decision was made nine years ago – a lifetime in technology.

That same company of 100 is now over 1,000 strong. In under one decade, a small industry competitor became a global manufacturing leader all through direct-to-consumer channels. And they’ve done so on Adobe’s Magento. If any SaaS platform has the right to claim the dawn of the DTC era (2008), Magento could easily make that argument. Instead, it gets lost in the conversation.

Standing in a hallway of Shopify Plus’ most recent New York City conference in 2019, I sat with Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke, one of the industry’s most admired executives. I remember marveling at the production of the event. The friends, the networking, the branding of the space all communicated Shopify’s place in the eCommerce ecosystem. I applauded the entrepreneurs who shared their stories on stage with highly produced short films. Also notable was the accessibility of the C-suite executives who, frankly, should no longer be that accessible. This availability is a part of Shopify’s secret sauce. You won’t find another retail CEO of his caliber who is willing to respond to customers on platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

What I remember most about that particular meeting is the intensity of Lutke’s product focus. Suggest an idea that is outside of Shopify’s product pipeline and he will explain why Shopify isn’t right for it. He rarely waivers on his vision for what Shopify and Shopify Plus are to the eCommerce industry, or the functions that they are willing to build.

It’s this same galvanizing vision that rallies Lutke’s base of thousands of platform evangelists. Shopify’s ability to amplify its message through its partnership ecosystem has done wonders in furthering its narrative of perceived inevitability. In Shopify Unite and Network Effects [1], I wrote:

If you were to sit in a room with BigCommerce or Adobe’s c-suite and explain that product differentiation can be more than a software iteration, you won’t be sitting there for long. And that is part of Shopify’s mounting advantage. It’s unclear whether or not the original intent of the Shopify Partner ecosystem was to be a catalyst for network effects. But that’s certainly the case.

Founder Tobi Lutke, Harley Finkelstein, and team stumbled upon a new form of competitive advantage in commerce SaaS. Here, at the intersection of influence and efficacy, sociological advantages of retail brands have interfaced with an ecosystem of software as a service.

Shopify’s primary arguments for the attention it gets are valid. Its holistic approach to fulfillment, returns, and no/low code architecture will become fixtures in North America’s market as eCommerce’s percentage of retail continues to inch above and beyond 20% or 25% or 30%. And consider Squarespace or WooCommerce’s volume and Magento’s GMV: Shopify’s ability to capture mindshare despite these other companies’ advantages are as much the fault of the competitors who haven’t valued the marketing and branding aspects of business.

By weaponizing network effects, Shopify has become the proverbial cool kid of SaaS. Its brand voice is the life of the party and the center of many public discussions. There is market value in this positioning. Like Amazon, Shopify’s fortune is tied to eCommerce’s continued growth in North America. Public investors reward Shopify simply for being tied to the movement towards direct-to-consumer. It’s deserved.

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The Traditional, The Cool, The Quirky, and The Hustlers

It is important to note that this is not winner-takes-all, and what Shopify does next matters. There are eCommerce founders building on custom sites that have accomplished profitable growth. There are leaders who’ve chosen Salesforce or BigCommerce to fit their technological or philosophical needs. And in the process, they’ve built companies spewing $10s of millions in monthly EBITDA. Of course, there are examples of these feats on Shopify, but that’s the point. The democratization of eCommerce doesn’t only refer to platform simplicity.

Shopify’s ecosystem stands to benefit greatly by expanding the definition and character of the DTC industry to reach out and include the brands, founders, agencies, and technologies enabled to support them on other platforms. Some of the best and brightest stories, people, and brands are building outside of the spotlight.

The cool kids often earn the lion’s share of attention. But some of the most notable progress happens where the cool kids aren’t. That’s the paradox.

By emphasizing stories and anecdotes from founders who’ve eschewed the industry spotlight or brands that have managed growth differently than is commonly advertised, we’re closing the knowledge gap. Perhaps there was a brand founder who chose to use WooCommerce to scale and now has insights that could help Shopify-based brand founders accomplish the same. Or perhaps a Shopify Plus founder who’s successfully captured five years of year-over-year growth could explain a key strategy to a brand owner who’s built on Magento 2.3.4.

As eCommerce grows beyond 25% or 30% of American retail, we will see more examples of brands and retailers achieving a growth velocity that would have previously seemed unimaginable. In some cases, these brands will not be built with one’s preferred technical architecture. But the credibility or inclusion of these founder perspectives shouldn’t hinge on their platform preference.

Shopify Inc.’s job is two-fold. Their sales team works on converting potential users into new merchants. Their partnership ecosystem plays an essential role in replatforming existing merchants to Shopify or Shopify Plus. There are limits to this, but Shopify’s pronged ecosystem that pulls in new users and levels up existing ones is an advantage in the market, and it has an unparalleled opportunity. Where it reaches from here will determine its next phase of growth.

But they’re on notice. For every great success narrative that you hear from a Shopify partner, there five stories on competitive platforms. The DTC industry isn’t Shopify, it’s bigger than its technology or its ecosystem. This means that there is a greater opportunity to learn from, endorse, encourage, or evangelize the great work of builders who chose a different approach to a positive outcome.

By Web Smith | Editor: Hilary Milnes | Art: Andrew Haynes | About 2PM

Members: Juneteenth and American Dreams

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The discussion between us was slow and every answer labored. It was difficult to tactfully explain the concept of an “unnecessary wait.”

There’s always a wait.

Modern Retail editor Cale Weissman wanted to understand the Black perspective of those of us in eCommerce. I didn’t have many answers for him. I worked to moderate my responses, struggling to mask volumes of persisting frustrations within the digital industries. At one point, Weissman asked for a list of venture-backed founders in the direct-to-consumer space. There was, of course, the obvious answer. Tristan Walker rolls off the tongue. But I didn’t have a novel response in that moment and I was ashamed of that. There are so few Black professionals in this space. For the vast majority of prospective executives, founders, or investors, they’re still waiting.

A portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”, you’ll see Juneteenth celebrations from Target, Nike, Glossier, Deciem, Ford Motors, Adobe, Allstate, Altria, Best Buy, Google, JPMorgan, Lyft, Mastercard, Postmates, Tesla, SpaceX, RXBar, Spotify, Twitter, Square, Workday, Uber, and countless others. Most of it will be in vain and some of the efforts will be widely panned.

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You’ll observe brands, people, and media commentators missing the point. You’ll see gimmicks, carefully crafted statements, and an oversimplification of a complex period in American history. Imagine our great grandchildren over-simplifying the present day.

For some of us, Juneteenth was only sort of a celebration. Imagine wanting something for your entire life and then waiting two and a half more years for that something. It’s a bittersweet celebration. For those of us who descended from those strong-minded South Texans, today is the annual reminder of their physical, mental, and emotional resilience. It’s a reminder of our inherited endurance, will, and resourcefulness. There’s always a wait. So, Juneteenth: a celebration, sure. A national holiday? Of course. But within the confines of the classrooms, offices, or neighborhoods of our American cities, Juneteenth should be a day to reflect on the waits that remain.

Grandchild of Slaves and Grandma to Me

Dorothy Smith’s grandson’s first essay remained on her bookshelf. It was an elementary school recount of Jack Roosevelt Robinson’s embattled life, the first man to cross the color barrier in Major League Baseball. I remember the essay because in 1992, it was my first time using a color printer for a school project. I recall the pride of using an image of his baseball card as the hook for a project that made me emotional, even as a nine-year-old. The eight-page report was double-spaced with size 18 font. For some reason, she was proud of that essay and it remained in her home until her passing in April of 2014. She’d critique the cadence and the word choices. She’d implore me to slow down when I read it aloud; I stuttered heavily back then. I credit our conversations for helping to heal that ailment.

Between 1992 and 2014, she’d go on to help me with a number of essays. As she got older and less capable, she’d listen to me narrate the stories that I wrote. But earlier in my life, she’d actually help me write them. A highly educated woman, she was my hero. By the end of this essay, she might be yours. One of those essays was a seventh grade report on Juneteenth’s impact on my own family. I’ll never forget her input:

The message of freedom didn’t make it all the way down here and, so, they had to wait a little bit longer. There was always a wait. There’s always a wait.

President Abraham Lincoln drafted Proclamation 95 in September 22, 1862. Imagine hearing word of this proclamation and then waiting for it to save you. It was effective, five months later, as of January 1, 1863. Imagine counting down those days to freedom. For some, the count was far longer. For that lot, their freedom was hidden by economic and political disdain for the federal order. It would be an additional two years before my relatives heard the news.

Every advocate of slavery naturally desires to see blasted, and crushed, the liberty promised the black man by the new constitution.

Those were the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to Union General Stephen Hurlbut, an ally on paper but a critic in private. Even after the order, a number of states avoided the action required to fulfill the president’s wishes. According to Dorothy Smith, the population of Texas was aware of their ordered freedom long before they received it. For them, it was a painful wait. I’ll never forget the emphasis on “there’s always a wait.” These were the words of Dorothy Smith: child of laborers and sharecroppers. She was an entrepreneur, a retailer, a real estate agent, and mother to six college graduates. Dorothy was the grandchild of Texas slaves and my grandmother.

XEwCTvowHer grandparents were born in 1858 and 1853. Dave and Sallie Draper Hill were born enslaved in Panola, a small town on the border of Texas and Louisiana. They were of the last American slaves freed by that Galveston, Texas order on June 19th, 1865. They’d later marry in 1881. According to the 1900 census, they’d go on to have 12 children. My great-grandmother was born in 1895. She’d later become an independent farmer, raising cattle, pigs, chickens. She grew and sold vegetables and she tended to a fruit tree orchard on her property. Her daughter would marry James Smith in 1944 and remain married to the Army Air Corps veteran until their passing – one year apart.

I always contemplate what earlier generations of my family would have done with real opportunity. It always seemed as though they were capable, potent, and waiting. It was Dorothy who we credit with taking matters into her own hands. She was defiant in her capitalism, her pursuit of education, her politics, her advocacy, and the opportunities afforded to her six children. She resented the idea of Juneteenth, in ways. It represented neglect and deception, a stalling of opportunity. It was the embodiment of an unnecessary wait for the opportunity to live a full life.

She stopped waiting.

The Sudden Retailer

With her meager savings, she launched two businesses that operated in tandem. Both companies were within the same strip mall and they’d feed each other business for decades. A licensed barber and realtor, “Melody” became her calling card. By the mid-1950’s, the barbershop generated substantial cash flow, allowing her to hire staff and procure basic wholesale partnerships. Her storefront would double as a beauty supply retailer, amplifying her earnings by catering to an audience with few places else to shop. This should sound like a familiar strategy. Her clientele was working class and upwardly mobile, a trend that would continue throughout the Civil Rights era.

Many would eventually buy homes in the area Northeast area of downtown Houston. Melody Realty would be one of their guides. The Fifth Ward was an area where Black Americans could buy homes without political or social persecution. Regardless of one’s wealth, the city’s affluent remained deed restricted – first legally and then by proxy. The middle-class son of a Texas Instruments engineer and flight attendant, I’d later be born in that same downtrodden area in 1983. Thirty years later, the city’s deed policies remained. There’s always a wait.

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Pictured: Dorothy, right, with her son.

Dorothy would later become one of the preferred real estate agent of her area. In this way, her storefront operated as a funnel. Her Melody brand of business blended short-term cash flows with longer-term windfalls. It changed the trajectory of our family. James, an Army Air Corps veteran, and Dorothy would send six children to colleges across the United States throughout the 1960s and 1970s. All would graduate and five would go on to have children. By the time that we were born, the idea of college was an afterthought. It was just another task for us. And so was entrepreneurship.

Dorothy would enforce a strict policy for each of her children. My father and his siblings would be required to earn their barber’s license while in high school. This sense of economic independence would propel a number of those children to impactful lives in business, religion, and medicine. Today, Melody Realty continues to operate in the Houston area, a testament to her work.

Conclusion: Ending The Wait

By the time I was born, she’d complete classes at Rice University. She was omnipresent in our lives and she stressed the importance of sacrifice. Dorothy Smith’s life had a profound impact on my own. In our home, she’s taken the form of a superhero. Imagine being born into a world that penned you for one thing and then choosing to achieve something more. She’d send six kids to school before the United States provided her the right to vote. My father was 13 when the Voting Rights Act passed. There’s always a wait.

Dorothy was uncomfortable with Juneteenth because it was symbolic of the proverbial weight of an unnecessary wait. This same concept can be applied across generations, including our own. Dorothy would argue that she was nothing special. Imagine what her parents could have done with the freedoms that Dorothy possessed. I can envision Dorothy Smith atop of our industry, if she was born during my lifetime.

The story of upward mobility in America is one of waiting. In the 1800s, it was for freedom. It the early 1900s, it was waiting for the dignity of citizenship. In the late 1900s, it was the wait for legal equality. And today, it’s the wait for equity in treatment and opportunity. We’re still in the proverbial period of waiting.

Today, we are celebrating the overcoming of adversity. It’s not intended to be a pleasant memory. I’d have preferred to celebrate no Juneteenth at all. I am sure that Sallie and Dave Hill would have agreed. When you’re deserving of opportunity, every single moment without it will feel like a decade. Now, imagine how two years of waiting may feel. The daughter of field laborers, she birthed a generation of Black professionals. Her life was a force function that bent time. There should have been more Dorothy’s in the 1950s and 1960s. There should be more of her children. We have to recognize that an unnecessary wait is just as fraught as no opportunity at all.

The hope is that, today and every day forward, we work to bend time. The leadership of the industries that define American exceptionalism should reflect America. We should provide opportunity, fill executive suites, hire the best people, invest in resilient entrepreneurs, mentor, lead, build, uplift, and provide the freedoms that some Americans take for granted.

There are more Dorothy’s than we know and some of them are waiting. The 45 second pause between Weissman’s question and my answer likely made him as uncomfortable as it made me. In a better version of our world, I would have answered his question with ease. It’s critical that we identify our own unnecessary waits. Once we do, it’s our responsibility to end those waits with opportunity. It’s the one small change that can alter the course of generations.

Essay: Dorothy’s Grandson | Editor: Hilary Milnes | Art: Andrew Haynes | About

No. 342: The Antagonistic Mr. Elliot

Elliot

In the closing scene of AMC’s final episode of Mad Men, the viewers are left to believe that our seven season survey of Don Draper ends in his personal enlightenment. In this particular moment: Draper is seen sitting on the grass, cross-legged and with no shoes. He’s meditating on a hilltop with a dozen or so other students. For what seems like just a moment, the audience is led to believe that the embattled protagonist is finally at peace with himself. And then he smiles. It’s the kind of smile that communicates “I’m still the best at what I do.” The audience is left guessing. The scenery, the moment, and Draper’s skill set suggest that Draper was responsible for conjuring one of the most impactful and audacious brand advertisements of the 20th century. It was a rare moment in brand history: an incumbent brand operated like an insurgent. The result? An ad that reshaped Coca-Cola’s narrative for nearly a decade.

The Mad Men scene of the origin story was fictitious, of course. The story of the advertisement’s impact was not, however. Like Ford and General Motors in the 1960s or Nike and Reebok in the 1980s, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s rivalry gave rise to the idea of insurgent brands. Insurgents are brands that arise out of the rivalries of incumbents.

In early 1886 an Atlanta chemist (and morphine addict) introduced Coca-Cola to the world. He called it a “potion for mental and physical disorders.” For him, it was a solve. The product’s main ingredient was cocaine, a narcotic that was – perhaps – less detrimental than his addiction. Pepsi-Cola followed just seven years later. It would be decades before the two companies became legitimate rivals. The arc of the two brands has become a case study in corporate brand competition. One that remains relevant to this day.

Pepsi-Cola had made hay during the Depression. Like Coke, the drink cost a nickel, but it came in a 12-ounce bottle nearly twice the size of Coke’s dainty, wasp-waisted one. But by the 1950s, Pepsi was still a distant No. 2. It nabbed Alfred Steele, a former Coke adman, who arrived embittered and ambitious. His motto: “Beat Coke.” Coca-Cola refused to call Pepsi by name — the drink was “the Imitator,” “the Enemy,” or, generously, “the Competition” — but it began tinkering with its business (and imitating Pepsi) to stay ahead. [1]

When John S. Pemberton secured the recipe for Coca-Cola in 1886, he couldn’t have foreseen a feud that would span three centuries. But for many consumers, the Pepsi vs. Coke feud is about as American as baseball. In 1899, Caleb Bradham decided to compete head on. Also a chemist, Brad’s Drink was later incorporated as Pepsi-Cola. And so began a roller coaster of a century that crescendoed in the 1970’s with the Pepsi Challenge – a marketing push that aimed to convince younger consumers that rival Coca-Cola had inferior taste and less cool. It worked. And so continued the back and forth. The two companies were well-established when the 1970s’ Cola Wars broke captivated American consumers (and international ones, alike).

The cola competition study [HBS Case Summary: 2] is a prologue to a greater point. What happens when incumbents ignore insurgents? The inertia of dominance often becomes an incumbent’s nemesis. At the peak of the cola wars, a future founder was employed by Unilever and then Procter & Gamble. There, he led marketing for German toothpaste manufacturer Blendax. By working for these conglomerates, Dietrich Mateschitz had an early education in the gifts and curses of incumbency. And one chance meeting in Thailand provided his platform for insurgency.

In 1982 he met an Austrian toothpaste salesman called Dietrich Mateschitz, who had started drinking Krathing Daeng (founded in 1976) during visits to Bangkok and found it cured his jet lag. Mateschitz became convinced that the drink had wider commercial potential, and in 1984 the two men became business partners. [3]

The emergence of Red Bull serves a case study in insurgency-driven marketing and branding. Over the next three decades, Red Bull would go on to master alternative marketing, clawing domestic and international market share from incumbents that should have been equipped to stifle the Austrian beverage manufacturer’s advances.

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Global beverage market: leading companies 2018, based on sales | Source: Beverage Industry Magazine

But as with anything, it can be difficult for incumbents to obsess over potential competitors when existing threats exist. By 1979, Pepsi overtook Coca-Cola in sales after a clever “taste test” marketing push that outwitted the Atlanta-based manufacturer. This victory was relatively short-lived. By 1996, Fortune magazine declared the cola wars to be finished. And since, Pepsi shifted its focus altogether.

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Concepting a new form of brand marketing.

Retail has been witness to a history of these brand battles. And if the future of retail is eCommerce, it’s likely that today’s next surprise is brewing. Insurgents take markets by surprise by operating in ways unanticipated by established corporations. They move differently and they rarely play by traditional rules. Incumbents are incentivized to preserve the status quo, retaining market share. It’s often the case that product-wise, all things are equal. It’s the subtle differences in messaging and community that tends to shift the conversation from old and stable to new and dynamic. Shopify is the Coca-Cola of this conversation. Shopify wasn’t first to democratize eCommerce but no platform has a better understanding of marketing and branding than the Ottawa-based SaaS company. In a recent 2PM report, I explained:

The growth of the DTC era can be attributed to SaaS companies like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento [Adobe], and Demandware [Salesforce]. But in an industry where innovations are finite development cycles away, community and brand equity has become the key differentiator. [4]

Shopify’s innovations are numerous. Two of their top competitors (Salesforce and Adobe) are now cogs in corporate wheels. In this way, BigCommerce is the Pepsi to Shopify’s Coca-Cola. Of all of Shopify’s innovations, branding and sociology are ones that BigCommerce cannot seem to contend with. Led by Brent Brellm, the Austin-based SaaS company competes on the merits of its product. “We taste better” may as well be on his CEO’s whiteboard. But Shopify is more than the merits of its product, it’s a lifestyle brand. This perplexes BigCommerce’s leadership. In the platform wars, taste will matter as technologies shift toward no-code architecture. But brand will be equally important. Enter Elliot, a platform that seems to possess the tools that Shopify’s other competitors do not. And an emphasis on substance and brand.

On Insurgency and No-Code Development

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The rise of the no-code economy

Founded in July 2017 by Sergio Villasenor, Elliot announced a $3 million round in January of 2018. And like many venture announcements in that first quarter, the news came and went. Beyond a PR wire, the company’s announcement made no headlines. There was no grand entrance and even less buzz. This, despite a list of admirable investors and advisors.

We have orchestrated a blue-chip syndicate of seed stage investors including Bowery Capital, a national seed stage fund with offices in SF and NY leading the round, and Susa Ventures as the co-lead. Others participating include Acceleprise, Bam Ventures, Flexport, and SV Angel. [5]

Early on, Elliot’s founder built the company’s value proposition on the common premise: “We taste better.”  In SaaS, this is akin to iterating fast and architecting software superiority. For product developers, this product-first concept is the default.

On the merits of its product alone, Elliot has a number of clones. A casual observer will find them in the brand’s Twitter mentions questioning how the company has begun to consume mindshare with its unique approach to antagonizing incumbent brands. The company, itself, has little protected intellectual property. And until recently, it had no marketing flywheel. But over time, I’ve observed the company’s playbook evolve into one reminiscent of an insurgent of old: Red Bull. The brand has become uncomfortably antagonistic. But you can’t behave insurgently without some level of discomfort.

Elliot on Twitter

@tobi Emojis must be a Plus feature 😉

Elliot contends that Shopify’s products aren’t for everyone. And that its no code approach is early but it will be of increasing relevance as vendors begin to shift away from development agencies to launch new merchandising operations. A Shopify Partner, who asked for his identity to be withheld, commented on this trend. He noted: “As no-code becomes more common, agencies like mine will need to find new ways to add value for our clients. Who is paying $100,000 to do what can be done for free?” In the Lean Luxe slack channel, former Shopify Editor-in-Chief Aaron Orendorff and notable copywriter contended with Elliot’s brand voice:

There’s a 100% chance I’m not your target audience. So that’s probably part of it. For me, it’s the mixed feelings of: (a) that’s clever and attention grabbing vs (b) I’d be uncomfortable to retweet it.

The founding team is rounded out by Clayton Chambers (formerly of Yotpo) who serves as the Head of Growth. Additionally, Villasenor was successful in hiring Marco Marandiz (formerly of Capital One, VRBO]) as his Head of Marketing. The team has made an early impact, though it remains to be seen as to whether it has had a material effect on penetrating one of Shopify’s top advantages: its partnership ecosystem. What is evident is that the DNA of the team is different than the rest. And that, more than anything else, makes them something to watch. They’ve begun to build Elliot into a lifestyle brand, merchandising and all. They are out-Shopifying Shopify.

Sergio Villaseñor on Twitter

est. 2019

The technology and promotional DNA that the company possesses aside, a few questions remain. Can Villasenor convince Shopify’s target consumer that no-code architecture is an acceptable path forward? And can he convince development agencies to shift their offerings to account for a no-code economy? Frequent justifications for merchants considering no-code platforms include: speed, cost reduction, and ease of launch. No-code architecture allows early stage brands to sidestep developer shortages and agency fees, potentially decreasing startup costs and early investment needs.

Although no one is saying that coding is dead or that programmers are going to be out of a job soon, there is no denying that the current demand for software far exceeds the supply of coders and that many traditional ways of building applications are complex and time-consuming. [6]

According to my research, less than 8% of Shopify Plus merchants have a GMV that exceeds $10 million annually. Although, this number can improve. Shopify brands like Supply can grow from $2.5 million annual run rates to $10+ million run rates in just a year.

Shopify’s gift is that its brand partners mature over time, a process that has been aided by the company’s support systems and suite of technical services. Some analysts would argue that BigCommerce (or Salesforce or Adobe) would be positioned to benefit if Shopify ever lost community support. However, it’s likely that Shopify’s incumbent competitors are ill-equipped to facilitate such a shift. And besides, all proverbial cola tastes the same. But no-code is a different value proposition altogether. One that may become relevant as the economy tightens and venture capital becomes less available to early stage eCommerce brands and retailers.

Like Coca-Cola, Ford, and Nike before it – Shopify’s name represents more than its product. In May 2020, Shopify hosts its next Unite conference in Toronto. It’s the annual event that hosts thousands of loyalists that converge to praise Shopify’s continued growth. In the process, the event fortifies the phalanx of protection that the SaaS company has surrounding it. More than software, Shopify is the people, brands, and agencies that evangelize it. These are the company’s strategic advantages. If Villasenor and team have it their way, they’ll be in Toronto as well. But they won’t be in the event’s venue handing out cards with software specs, that’s what an incumbent like BigCommerce would do. They’ll be down the street from Unite, hosting their own party. And perhaps, a few Shopify clients will trickle in to see what the fuss is about. Some will scoff at the lack of decorum and some will nod at the audacity of it.

Report by Web Smith | About 2PM